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Being and Becoming

No person is a single thing. I am a son, a father, a netball coach, an employee, a colleague, an immigrant, a lover, a gay man, an African. I am multiple things at multiple times. Growing up, my father had limited me to be his template: he wanted me to grow up and become another him. He wanted a version of manhood that was familiar to him to be renewed in me. I was determined to be my own person.

I would never imagine loving Alex would become a part of my becoming. It started with the calming of my flaring temper. I had always been mercurial, never holding back from giving anyone a piece of my mind. I hated (and still hate) any mess in my living space. Utensils never lie unclean in my kitchen sink. I mop the bathroom and scrub the toilet as soon as anyone uses them. I have always wanted order and I expect anyone around me to maintain that sense of order. In Nairobi, I would be angry after visits from friends who were a little messy. A book would be left on the sofa, for example. Or there would be a dust print on the floor. I didn’t recognize I was actually angry with the person who had violated on my code of orderliness. I just felt myself boil on the inside and I didn’t understand why.

One day a friend visited and I made him tea. He drank it half-way and said he was done.

“Is there something wrong with my tea?” I asked.

He shrugged and said it was O.K.

“Then why are you not finishing drinking it?”

Alex pulled me aside.

“Stop it, Sam,” he said.

“That’s my milk and sugar,” I complained.

Later, Alex told me I had embarrassed him before his friend. He said I had too much anger locked in my body and that would make it hard for people to connect to me. That’s how I began to studiously play and coach netball. The daily dedication to practice offered a convenient outlet for my pent-up rage. I tried my best to always go back to Alex light-hearted. He was at ease with himself in a way I was not. We learned to tell each other our likes and dislikes, to be comfortable enough to compromise.

When he stayed at our rural home, he was quickly nicknamed “Samuel’s twin brother”. That was how our type of intimacy was first understood. I also believe that it was his irresistible charm that slowly and steadily chipped away at my father’s spite for how I sexually identified. My father appreciated the moments he shared with Alex. Perhaps he thought he could only access Alex, and the joy he brought, by mending our relationship. Soon enough my father added Alex’s name to our evening prayers. Eventually he hung Alex’s picture in the living room. The more we were around Alex, the more the hardened parts of our beings softened. My father and I began acknowledging our bond and love as a family.


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